Our Simple Journey of Faith, Family and Life

Monday, May 28, 2012

50 Way's to live within your means

1 - Get An Education

Education earns the number one position because it is truly the most

important thing you can do. I don't just mean attending college or a trade

school, but learning skills that will help you save around the house.

Take a night school class at your local high school or community college

and learn budgeting, computer skills, cooking, car maintenance, or anything

that will help you to become more efficient and frugal in your home. Take

advantage of online tutorials, books and friends who may be able to help you

learn anything from tax preparation to plumbing to cutting hair.

The more skills you have and the more you know, the more you save. Begin

now by making a list of all the things you have paid people to do over the last

year. Make another list of skills your friends and family possess. Make a

third list of the skills you could teach someone else.

2 - Don't Spend Your Change

When we were first engaged, we began saving our change each night in a

jar. At the end of the month, I would take the change to the store and buy

spices, pantry basics and cleaning supplies. When we were married and moved

into our first apartment, the cupboards were stocked by pocket change. We

could never have afforded as poor college students to purchase these basics all

at once.

You will be amazed how much money you have at the end of the month with

such little effort. You will also be amazed that you don't miss the money. We

saved as much as $40.00 a month. If you have older children, have them

participate too and put the money aside for a special item for the family or

for a family vacation.

3 - Pay with Cash

Everything except your home or education should be paid for with cash

whenever possible. Cash means currency, your ATM card, or your checkbook. It

takes discipline, but it can work with a plan and teamwork. You will save

thousands in interest charges.

4 - Purchase Used Cars Instead of New

Driving a new car is a great thrill, but may be foolish for many of us.

Unless you are in a high tax bracket and your accountant says that leasing or

buying new vehicles offers you essential deductions, you will be better off to

purchase a good, low mileage used car, and save the difference that others pay

in depreciation.

There are many websites dedicated to helping consumers choose a good used

car. Plan to have a mechanic check out the car if you are buying it from an

individual or unfamiliar dealer. Retired fleet or rental cars can be a good

buy, because usually they are still under warranty and have been well

maintained. Auctions are a possibility, but it will pay to do your homework

before buying a car there because auctions are not for the novice, or the

impulsive, or the undisciplined.

If you purchase from a private party, get a copy of the car's service

record and do an online search on the car's VIN number (there are services that

provide a detailed car history) to make sure you know if it was a lemon or a

salvaged car.

Fifty years ago, a car was considered fully used up when it rolled a

hundred thousand miles on the odometer. Today, many finely engineered cars are

traded off or sold by their first owners within a year or two of being new, and

can be bought for two-thirds their original value. With 80% of their useful

life left in them, a late model used car allows you to buy a better quality car

than you could afford to buy new. Treat it kindly, and it will take care of you

and your budget for many years.

5 - Put Down As Much As You Can

When you are purchase a large ticket item like a car or home with borrowed

money, put down the largest deposit you can afford. Don't be swayed by the

sales person or real estate agent who reminds you that you only need to put

$xxx down and you can take the rest of your cash and use it on something else.

You will pay hundreds or thousands of dollars more over the life of your loan

in interest charges when you make a small or no down payment.

6 - Eliminate Extra Charges

Examine your insurance policy, retirement funds, bank accounts, and so on,

and eliminate any extras you do not need. You may be paying for benefits and

services you will never need or use.

7 - Determine the Real Cost of Purchases

If cable, for example, is $30 per month, think $360 per year. What could

you do with $360 What about the newspaper If you read it, by all means keep

it, but if you don't, consider buying only the weekend edition.

8 - Look for Matching Funds

Take advantage of matching funds through your employer, if this is

offered. This not only applies to retirement accounts but large employers may

also provide matching funds for continuing education. Be sure to ask.

9 - Take Advantage of Scholarships

Investigate scholarship opportunities for yourself or your child. Make sure

you file a FAFSA (free application for federal student aid) form. This can be

obtained from any high school counseling office. This form must be completed

for all financial aid and almost all scholarships.

Ask your high school for a list of organizations that offer scholarships to

graduating seniors. Some will also provide scholarships to those returning to

school after a lengthy absence. Check on the internet for other opportunities,

but never pay for a list. Go to a good bookstore where you can find a book

with a list of national scholarships.

Use these same strategies to find scholarships for your children. Begin

the hunt during their sophomore year in high school as there are many

scholarships available to high school juniors, and too often, the list of

applicants is very short because other parents and students are not as

proactive as you are.

10 - Use Your Deductible

Take the highest deductible possible when having taxes deducted from your

paycheck if you normally receive a refund. Consult your tax advisor on how to

do this.

11 - Buy Savings Bonds

If you have young children or grandchildren, buy them savings bonds. They

are relatively inexpensive to purchase and are better than a saving account

because they are tax free when cashed in to be used for post-high school


12 - Cancel Private Mortgage Insurance

Once you owe less than 80% of your home's value your lender no longer

requires mortgage insurance. Keep a close eye on when you reach this level and

cancel the insurance. Usually it is a poor value.

13 - Shop the Sales

I never pay full price for anything. Be patient. Everything goes on sale

eventually. There are times of the year when certain items are always on

sale. Everyone knows eggs are cheapest the week before Easter. Storage boxes

are on sale in January, when everyone is cleaning up from the holidays. Summer

clothes are on sale about two weeks into the summer season. Keep a journal of

the sales at your local stores and see what their pattern is. Don't be afraid

to ask when an item will go on sale. See Meridian article The Self Reliant


14 - Make Friends Where You Shop

If you have a favorite store, develop a friendship with a clerk and ask him

to let you know when items are being marked down or there is a sale scheduled.

Some stores have a regular day of the week when they mark down items.

15 - Purchase Gifts Year Round

Take advantage of end-of-season sales and purchase items for Christmas in

July. I recently purchased workout clothes for 70% off. They are appropriate

to wear year round and will be appreciated Christmas morning but they cost me

much less than if I had waited to purchase them in November. The same is true

of home decor items, linens, photo albums, and year round clothing such as

belts and jeans.

Other added advantages of this approach are that you will spread out your

purchases, thus preserving your budget and allowing you to avoid all the

hassles of the crowds in November. Consider doing this for weddings, shower

gifts, birthdays, anniversaries, and baby gifts.

16 - Shop after a Holiday

If you won't be seeing family or friends until after a holiday such as

Christmas, purchase last minute gifts after the holiday. For example, you

could make up a food gift basket with candies wrapped in Holiday wrapping,

pasta shaped like Christmas trees and an ornament or two, all for 50% to 75%


17 - Re-Gift

OK, so Miss Manners may say this is over the line. I am not suggesting that

you give someone a gift you rejected. On occasion, you will receive duplicate

gifts at a shower or for a special occasion that can't be returned. If you

have a new, unused item that you love, but don't need, I see no problem with re-

gifting it to someone who needs or who will really appreciate it.

18 - Make Your Gifts

The only limit to what you can accomplish is the limit of your

imagination. I made dress-up costumes for my grandchildren last Christmas from

remnants of fabrics I had around the house and a couple of old curtains. One

of the curtains was given to me by a friend who discovered what I was doing.

The grandchildren loved the costumes, and we had lots of fun watching them

dress up and play.

Think about giving your favorite dessert, a dinner, home made rolls, a

sketch, a poem, a personalized gift basket - the list goes on and on.

19 - Pool Your Gift Money

Think group gift. Whether it be for a wedding, shower, or for a family

member's birthday, why not pool your money and get a nicer and often more

needed gift than you could afford on your own.

20 - Make Wrapping Paper

It is crazy that we spend so much on greeting cards and gift-wrap as we do.

Make your own! For gift-wrap, you can purchase rolls of newsprint at paper

stores and decorate it using stickers, stencils, stamps, or just splatter

paint. Kids will think it's great fun. The same is true of bags. Purchase

plain white bags and decorate.

For a real country look, purchase a roll of brown paper in the paint

section of your home improvement store. Tie the gift with a gingham bow or

even twine, add a homemade card and you are done. This is even cheaper than

buying it at the dollar store.

21 - Make Gift Cards

Find a local paper supply store that sells blank cards. They will also

have cards ready to print that are designed for thank you notes. These are the

perfect size for gift enclosures. A box of 100 cards will usually cost less

than $10.00. The same number of gift enclosures would cost $35.00 or more.

22 - Utilized Your No More Than a Dollar Store

There are so many of these stores now. You can get really great buys on

everything from gifts to cleaning supplies. This is a great resource when

planning a party or compiling gift baskets. It is also a great place to take

children to pick out gifts for friends, grandparents or others or even to shop

for a reward for themselves.

You will need to check these stores often, because their inventory varies.

Don't forget to ask the clerks if they know when an item you are searching for

may be scheduled to arrive.

23 - Reinvent an Item

Think of a new use for an item you already have. You could turn a basket

upside-down and use it as a plant stand. Clean and paint your picnic table and

bring it inside to use as a kitchen table. We have an old Arts & Craft style

glass door mounted against the wall as a dramatic headboard. What can you


24 - Plant Fruit Trees

You can pick these up from nurseries who supply farmers with their orchard

trees, for much less than at retail. Most trees will not bear fruit for four or

five years, so plant now as an investment in the future. The fruit you harvest

can be eaten, preserved, frozen, or sold at a farmers market or from a card

table on your front lawn. Citrus fruits can be eaten fresh, squeezed for juice

or the juice can be frozen in ice cube trays and then stored in freezer bags

for use later.

If you live in a warm climate plant citrus trees for winter harvest, and

fruit and nut trees for summer and fall harvests. Be sure to plant the fruits

your family likes. Grapefruit trees will be of little use if your family does

not like grapefruit.

Be sure to check at the nursery, because some trees need two varieties

planted together in order to pollinate. Peek over the fence and see what trees

the neighbors have, or talk to them about planting some that will pollinate

with your trees. The biggest mistake most people make is to plant too many

trees of the same variety.

25 - Plant a Garden

Like the fruit from your trees, you can preserve or freeze your garden

harvest as well as eating it fresh. You can also earn extra money to

supplement your grocery budget. Everyone loves fresh vegetables, and in many

areas, they are difficult to find. During World War II many families dug up

their yards to plant victory gardens to feed themselves and their neighbors.

If you don't have a yard you can plant many vegetables in pots and planter

boxes placed around a front door or on a balcony. Many good books can give you

directions and help you learn the tricks.

26 - Make Your Own Mulch

Composting will improve the yields you get from your vegetable gardens and

fruit trees. It will also save you money on fertilizers, and make your

flowering plants even more beautiful. There are many online sources with

details on how to make compost from leaves, yard clippings, kitchen scraps and


27 - Glean

If you cannot plant your own trees or gardens, keep your eyes open for

orchards or fields that are being harvested. Often farmers will allow you to

glean the fruits and vegetables that are left after the commercial harvest is

over. Ask permission; they will usually say, Yes, go ahead. Also, keep your

eyes open for neighbors who have trees that have fruit going unpicked. Many

times you can pick the fruit for them in exchange for half the fruit. This is

not only good for you but can be a huge help to people who are elderly or

handicapped, or just too busy, and cannot do this for themselves.

28 - Trade Garden Stock

Divide plants and trade with friends. It is really amazing how often

friends need to thin their garden plants or houseplants. Learn how to root

cuttings or divide root balls and trade with friends. Soon you will be

operating your own little nursery.

29 - Barter

Make a list of the skills and talents that you would be willing to share

with others in exchange for talents you don't have. You may be a great baker

and can make holiday pies and breads in exchange for haircuts for your


Do you know a family who has children your children enjoy playing with

Rotate babysitting on Friday nights. Can you tutor math or teach piano lessons

in exchange for auto repairs Sit down and brainstorm all the skills you and

your family have to share. When you have finished, start a second list of all

the people you know who have skills you need. You may be surprised how willing

others are to trade with you, thus saving money for both of you.

30 - Dumpster Dive

Got your attention with this one, didn't I OK, so I'm not suggesting you

hang out behind the supermarket or a popular restaurant, but look for locations

where someone is discarding things that may have value, but are no longer

needed. I have seen beautifully appointed retail cabinets, perfectly good

stuff, literally ripped out and hauled away.

Watch for contractors who are remodeling and have torn out moldings,

cabinets, fences, doors, or fireplaces. All these salvage items are

potentially useful to someone - maybe even to you and your project. Our

basement was finished with new carpet that was literally free - a friend who

lays carpet pulled it from a new home where the buyer wanted a different color,

and it only cost us the price of our friend's time to lay it down.

Another friend found two French doors being discarded. She took them home,

attached a piano hinge, applied paint and fabric, and made a divider to hide

her treadmill when it wasn't being used. It looks like a designer item.

31 - Salvage Scrap at Construction Sites

This is an especially good resource when a large development is being

built. They will always have a pile of scraps they are going to haul to the

dump. The more you take the less they have to discard. Talk to the foreman or

contractor. With luck, you can find great scrap lumber for making small

shelves, step stools, doll cradles, window boxes or anything else that requires

shorter pieces. If nothing else, it provides kindling to heat your home or for


32 - Use Coupons

This is a tried but true method of saving money on food, cleaning supplies,

medications and merchandise. There are many sources of coupons including your

local newspaper, magazines, box tops and the internet. Save coupons only for

items you actually use. You may form a co-op with other families and share

coupons for items they may be in need of but for which you have no use. A good

example of this would be diapers. Not every family need them, but when you do

they are an enormous expense. I know of one Relief Society where they share

coupons by passing around a basket with coupons that are not going to be used

by the donor and others can take what they can use.

33 - Rebates

Rebates are available on many large ticket purchases, and require the

discipline to fill out paperwork, make copies of receipts, and mail them off

before the expiration date. Establish the discipline to fill them out and mail

them within 24 hours of a big purchase, or risk seeing your savings evaporate

with your good intentions. We're talking real money here.

34 - Sign Up For Mailing Lists

Many of your local and chain retail stores have mailing lists. Most use

these lists to mail circulars on store specials and discount coupons. Many of

these are not available to the public, and you need to be on the mailing list

to take advantage of the savings. We have a local furniture store that holds

midnight madness sales twice a year. They have great savings at these events,

but you must have the invitation they have mailed you to get in the door.

35 - Take Your Lunch to Work

This is so much healthier and can save you hundreds of dollars over a

year's time. You don't need to tale peanut butter and jelly, although you

could. Create your own lunch by starting with a plastic container and adding

leftovers or a salad or nachos, a variety of cheeses meats and crackers; the

possibilities are endless and taste so much better than the same old sandwich

from the neighborhood deli - or worse yet, fast food. If you save just $2.00 a

day times how many days, that's mucho dinero in a year! Save it and eat


36 - Send Lunch to School

When I was a kid, the school cafeteria served a hot meal, but the kids with

lunch boxes had better food. It's still true. It is much more healthy for your

child to take a lunch than to purchase one, and also much less expensive. There

are many fun ideas for lunches as simple as using cookie cutters to make fun

sandwiches, to making your own lunchables.

I have been teaching After School Recreation classes for the past three

years - teaching latchkey kids to cook. I have discovered the kids will eat

lots of things they thought they never would, if they are presented correctly.

Their favorites are wraps. Simply pack a tortilla and ingredients in a sandwich

bag. Think salad in a tortilla and pack shredded carrots, lettuce, tomatoes,

cheese, meat, pickles, olives and of course some kind of dressing. Let them

assemble it at school and they will be the envy of their friends. This is great

for kids in high school and college as well.

37 - Drink Water

Make it a practice to drink water instead of juice or milk, at least one

meal a day. Water is much better for you and will cut calories as well as save


38 - Order Water

When you eat out, order water instead of soft drinks. You could purchase a

whole liter of soda, enough for the whole family, for the price of one drink

ordered at a restaurant. If you eliminate ordering just one drink a week, you

could save over $50.00 a year. Sodas are where fast food restaurants make their

profit, not food. If you currently order a soft drink every day, you could save

$300.00 a year.

39 - Keep a Food Stash in the Car

Have you ever had the kids say, I'm so... hungry, as you pick them up

from school You still have errands to run and soccer practice, so you find a

drive-thru and buy snacks.

Don't do it. Get a small cooler and stock it with snacks. Choose items

that won't melt, and the next time the kiddies complain, tell then to check the

snacks. If you know you will be gone from home for a longer period, add an ice

pack to the chest and add drinks and fresh fruit or cheese sticks and you are

ready to go. If you spend just $3.00 a week buying fast food snacks, you could

save more than $100.00 a year by making your own.

40 - Recycle Water Bottles

Wash your used water bottles and rinse them well. Fill them with water

about half full and freeze them. As you head out the door, fill the bottle the

rest of the way with fresh water and you will have a cold drink that will last

a few hours. When you have leftover juice or lemonade, fill an empty water

bottle and freeze or refrigerate it. Use these in lunches as a cheaper

alternative to bottled drinks.

This also works well for milk. I do chocolate milk for long trips; it's

more nutritious than sweetened juices and still fun. You may have heard rumors

that reusing water bottles is dangerous. This is one of those urban legends,

which grew out of a master's thesis that was not subjected to peer review or

scientific study. It has been refuted by the bottled water industry.

41 - Eat at Home

It is so much cheaper to eat at home instead of eating out. If you love

hamburgers, get a good recipe for gourmet hamburgers, invest in a small grill

and cook them at home. You will be amazed at how much your family loves them,

and they can all have them exactly the way they want them.

If you think you are too busy to cook, try making some meals ahead and

freezing them. If you think you can't cook, get a basic cookbook, or check one

out of the library and start practicing. If you eat out less and save $15.00

per week, you can save $780.00 a year!

42 - Eat Out for Lunch, Not Dinner

If there is a special occasion and you want to celebrate, then do your

restaurant dining at lunch time. Lunch menus often include most of the same

meal choices as the dinner menus, but at a smaller price. This is an

especially good tip for vacations. Eat your large meal at lunchtime and have

sandwiches or pizza for dinner.

43 - Learn How to Properly Store Foods

There are many items that can be purchased in season or grown in your

garden that can be canned for future use. If you have never canned, ask around

and find someone who can teach you. They will probably know someone whose

family has grown who will be happy to share their extra canning jars.

Vegetables, some fruits, nuts, even eggs and milk can be safely frozen. There

are many good books that will teach you to preserve and store food.

44 - Freeze Meals

Compile a number of recipes that will freeze well. These are great for the

nights you are too tired to cook or have other problems arise during the day.

It will help you avoid the temptation to run to the restaurant or for fast

food. Take a Saturday or weeknight evening and spend a few hours making

casseroles or other main dishes to freeze.

Purchase several ovenmicrowave-proof glass casserole dishes and use

these. This will save lots of money over buying disposable ones. Make sure

they are the same size and they will stack well in your freezer. Be sure to

cover the food with plastic wrap before you cover with foil and then remove the

plastic wrap before cooking. Label each dish on the foil with the cooking

directions. This can be lots of fun to do as a family and it will teach your

children or grandchildren culinary skills

45 - Take Food

Whether you are planning a road trip to Grandma's or a trip to Disneyland,

plan to take food with you. When our children were young, we would take food

for two meals a day with us when we vacationed. This was the only time I

purchased sugary cereals. We would eat fruit and cereal in the hotel room for

breakfast and have cheese and crackers or sandwiches for another meal. Allow

for one treat a day to be purchased at the beach or theme park and it won't

seem like a sacrifice to eat meals out of the cooler.

46 - Buy in Bulk

If you feel you can't use 12 rolls of paper towels, find a friend who can

share the items with you. If you purchase large packages of cereals or

ingredients like flour, divide it into plastic containers with lids. Be

careful and compare the price per ounce, because large quantity items are not

always the best buys. Meat, for example, is usually not a bargain at a

warehouse type store. There are many catalogs and other sources to purchase

party supplies, paper goods and even linens in bulk. Ask friends, and check

online for sources.

47 - Get Your Food Storage

Purchase extra canned fruits, vegetables, sauces, soups, and other

nonperishables when you shop each week. Don't forget to purchase cleaning

supplies, toiletries, and other non-food items you buy on a regular basis. As

your pantry gets more and more full of items you routinely use, you will begin

to save 25%-50% on your grocery budget. Once you have a supply you need only

buy items when they go on sale.

If you do this on a regular basis, you will always be feeding your family

and handling household needs at last year's prices. To begin the process, try

placing your change at the end of every day in a special jar. At the end of

the week purchase items that will store well and are on sale, with that money.

Do this in addition to your normal purchasing and do not use your storage

items, but continue buying as though they were not there. Don't forget your

pets; their food and supplies go on sale, too.

48 - Stretch Your Food

When buying frosted corn flakes, mix them with a box of unfrosted corn

flakes to reduce the sugar as well as the price. Do the same thing with

chocolate milk by adding half white milk; stretch orange juice by combining

with less expensive lemonade.

49 - Shop at the Farmers' Market

Farmers' markets are a great place to purchase fresh fruits and

vegetables. The best time to go is late in the day. Often when booths are

closing you can make deals, especially if you are buying large quantities, so

take orders from the neighbors or plan to can or freeze the extras.

50 - Buy Store Brands

If you are in doubt about the quality of a store brand, buy just one and

try it. Most store brands are packaged by the major food companies and are of

good to high quality. Some of the store brands are actually better than the

name brands. But if you really hate the store brand, by all means buy what you

love. Spoiling yourself on a few little luxuries is the spice of life, and the

reward for being frugal - isn't it

A Friend is God's way of showing us we don't have to walk alone.

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